The aim of the new law was to reduce conflict between couples by removing the ability to make allegations around behaviour and allowing couples to end their marriage on a joint basis. Thereby ensuring more separating couples can divorce amicably and focus on important issues such as arrangements for children and resolving finances.

Prior to ‘No Fault Divorce’, the previous divorce law, the Matrimonial Causes Act, came into effect in 1973. Given the legislation was some 50 years old, many practitioners felt the legislation had become out of date. Prior to April 2022, there was one ground for bringing a divorce; that the marriage had broken down irretrievably with the Petition being based on one of five facts based on blame or a period of separation, which often had the effect of increasing conflict.

Under the ‘No Fault Divorce’ law, couples can choose to make a sole Application for Divorce or a joint application meaning couples are able to apply alone or together. Rather than attributing blame or waiting for a period of time, the Application for Divorce simply states the marriage has broken down irretrievably. 

Following the Application, there is a mandatory waiting period of 20 weeks which provides a period of reflection before applying for the Conditional Order, which is the next stage in the process. There is then a six-week period between Conditional Order and the Final Order being granted, which legally ends the marriage. During the Covid pandemic the Family Court moved to a digital service for practitioners. Under the new law, couples can use the online service when making an Application for divorce without legal representation, making the process easier to access.

Timescales for the divorce process remain around 29 weeks if couples are progressing the Application without pausing to resolve financial matters. Pausing the process whilst agreeing on the division of matrimonial assets will ultimately make the divorce process longer. Resolving finances and recording the agreement within a Consent Order is an important aspect, as it provides clarity and protection from future claims.

Since the ‘No Fault Divorce’ law came into effect, the benefits are that where couples are amicable it does indeed reduce conflict. In addition, the new law has removed the opportunity to contest the divorce apart from on legal or jurisdictional grounds which saves time, reduces costs and stress.

Not only is the process more accessible, the language used is too. There is no longer a Petition; this has been replaced with an Application. Decree Nisi has been changed to Conditional Order and Decree Absolute has become Final Order.

One year has now passed since the new law came into effect, and statistical evidence shows there have been a total of 89,123 Applications for Divorce; 78% are from sole applicants and 22% are joint applicants.

The Government Family Court’s quarterly statistics for the period October to December 2022 show there were 24,273 Divorce Applications in this quarter alone under the new legislation, with 77% being made up of sole applications and 23% from joint applications. This is an increase of 5% from the same quarter in 2021 under the old law.

One of the most common issues seen since ‘No Fault Divorce’ came into force is that, as a result of couples being able to apply online without legal representation, resolving finances and recording that agreement into a legally binding document is being regularly overlooked. It is important to recognise that the divorce proceedings alone do not resolve any financial claims. Instead, this is dealt with separately.

A Consent Order is a legally binding document sealed by the Court that reflects the terms of an agreement reached between couples as to what will happen with their finances, who gets what, and when.

Not entering into a Consent Order could leave couples open to the risk of future claims. Circumstances change for the better or worse, and not having the protection of a financial order could enable a party to seek more in the future.

Even when couples have separated amicably, a Consent Order should be secured. If the separation is not amicable, there definitely should be a Consent Order to reduce further conflict in the future. Even if assets are limited, it is still important to resolve matters with a Consent Order.

At Mayo Wynne Baxter, our Family team can advise you in relation to the above and help you decide the best way to resolve financial matters and help you get a Consent Order.  

Karen Jeary, Associate Solicitor

Related Posts

109 AI and ChatGPT in the workplace: Friend or foe?

The topic of AI technologies has been all over the media recently with the release of ChatGPT, becoming a hot topic. It broke records...

109 StartUp Sussex 2023: Ideas with impact

A technology-assisted service that addresses the challenges of inadequate healthcare provision and underemployed medical professionals...

109 How should a business owner plan for growth?

For many owners, growing their business is a key goal. If you want your business to expand and evolve over the long term then defining...